Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Messy weather, messier cleanup

Engineer Scott Jamar, left, and Joe Wuest look at the damage to Upper Hayden Lake Road. 
 (The Spokesman-Review)
By Jonathan Brunt and James Hagengruber The Spokesman-Review

From 3 feet of snow to a foot of mud to record-high rivers and widespread blackouts, a series of recent storms brought wild weather to Inland Northwest residents.

The Spokane International Airport received three-quarters of an inch of rain for the 24-hour period ending at 4 p.m. Tuesday, said Laurie Koch, National Weather Service meteorologist. Two inches have fallen since the beginning of the year, more than 11/2 inches above average.

It might be time to think about building an ark: A chance of rain is forecast by the National Weather Service for each day for the next week.

Below is a glimpse at the effects of the weather:

Blackouts: Up to 3 feet of heavy wet snow was reported in the North Idaho mountains above Twin and Spirit lakes. The weight of the snow caused power lines to snap and left some 5,000 Avista Utilities customers in North Idaho and Eastern Washington without power, according to Avista spokeswoman Debbie Simock.

Repair crews from across the region were dispatched to Sandpoint, which suffered the most widespread outages because of fallen trees. Simock said crews would work through the night to restore power.

The outages in Bonner County prevented former Los Angeles police Detective Mark Fuhrman from hosting his daily radio show, broadcast throughout the region.

About 1,500 Vera Water and Power customers lost power for about an hour in Spokane Valley near 12th Avenue and Best Road after a pole fire, caused by the wind and rain, said Steve Skipworth, Vera’s director of operations.

Inland Power & Light reported scattered outages of about 300 customers.

Mudslide: A torrent of mud and sewage filled a Hayden, Idaho, woman’s carport early Tuesday. The incident happened when heavy rains caused mud to erode from a building site overlooking Hayden Lake, said Kootenai County Planning Director Rand Wichman.

Work at the site has previously sent rivers of mud across East Upper Hayden Lake Road, but the recent heavy rains caused a portion of the road to wash out and broke a nearby sewer line, sending at least a foot of stinky mud downhill into the carport.

Wichman said contractors and building professionals too often ignore laws requiring zero runoff from construction sites.

“That’s one of the biggest threats to lake water quality in this area,” he said.

Snowslides: The U.S. Forest Service is warning of an elevated risk of avalanches because of heavy snowfall and gusting winds in the high country, said Kevin Davis, an avalanche forecaster for the agency in Sandpoint.

The period during and immediately after a storm has some of the highest risks for a snowslide, he said.

“The snow just doesn’t have enough time to adjust to the new stress and the new load.”

Ski areas: Most ski resorts, including Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park and Schweitzer Mountain Resort, reported up to 20 inches of new snow from the system. The resorts are expecting banner weekends. Silver Mountain proclaimed the “best conditions of the season” on its Web site.

But it wasn’t all good news for skiers. Snow levels rose to 5,200 feet Tuesday and weren’t expected to fall much with rain on the way Tuesday night, said Koch with the weather service.

High winds kept several resorts closed, including Schweitzer and Silver Mountain.

High water: Rivers across the region broke high flow records for the day, including the Palouse River near Potlatch, Idaho, and Pine Creek near Pinehurst, Idaho, according to measurements taken at U.S. Geological Survey monitoring stations.

The weather service issued a flood warning for Spokane and Kootenai counties effective through 10 a.m. today.

The Spokane River flowed through downtown Spokane at twice the normal rate for the day. Spokane’s Hangman Creek also broke a daily record with a flow of 3,870 cubic feet of water per second, which is more than twice the previous record for the same day.

Flooding on Little Deep Creek near Colbert forced the closure of Dunn Road. Koch said the weather service was not expecting any Spokane County rivers to go above flood stage.